Is Twitter losing the right?
If you've been using Twitter over the past week or so -- especially if you're in the UK -- you may have noticed the hashtag #Twexit trending.
This is being used to signal users' intention to abandon Twitter and decamp to upstart rival Parler. So what’s going on here and why?
Parler -- which brands itself as the 'free speech social network' -- has been around since 2018 but only had around 100,000 users up to May last year. It then saw a surge in sign ups from Saudia Arabia following alleged censorship by Twitter of accounts favorable to the Saudi regime.
The latest #Twexit phenomenon has seen a surge in UK users on Parler with around 200,000 new UK accounts registered last weekend. This seems to be driven by Twitter's censoring of accounts, we know about the site's well publicized spat with Donald Trump but the latest wave seems to have been triggered by its banning of controversial commentator Katie Hopkins. Most of those setting up shop on Parler are conservative leaning with several UK government ministers and other Conservative MPs having set up accounts in recent days.
Clearly Parler's free speech approach is appealing to those joining the Twexodus. Though it is worth pointing our that there's a sting in the user agreement for the unwary -- by signing up for an account you promise to indemnify the site for any legal action it may face as a result of something you post.
You may be thinking at this point, what's the problem? If people with right-wing views want their own social network good luck to them. The worry is that we're seeing a Balkanization of social media, an area where it's already far too easy to exist in a bubble of material that supports your own world view.
Of course we already know that Twitter is a poor reflection of the real world -- recent election results prove that -- and to be fair there is, so far, little evidence of the Twexiters actually deleting their Twitter accounts with most choosing to maintain a foot in both camps.
But it will be a sad day if the two sides of the political spectrum end up bunkered on completely separate social networks with no chance of ever seeing dissenting views at all.